YANKEES 4, PIRATES 0
TAMPA – After CC Sabathia ended the 2013 season with a disappointing 14-13 record and 4.78 ERA he vowed he would be better in 2014. Judging by his past two spring starts, he is well on his way to delivering on that promise.
Sabathia (2-1) threw seven shutout innings and fanned seven Pirates as New York went on to blank Pittsburgh 4-0 on Friday in front of a paid crowd of 10,890 at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
The slimmed-down left-hander gave up only four hits and a walk while stretching his current scoreless inning streak to 13. In his past two starts, Sabathia has yielded no runs on four hits and one walk while striking out 12 in 12 innings.
The Yankees handed Sabathia all the runs he really needed in the first two innings against right-hander Edinson Volquez (0-3).
Brian McCann started it with a two-out RBI double in the first and Carlos Beltran later scored on a wild pitch. Brett Gardner and Derek Jeter each delivered RBI groundouts in the second as the Yankees touched Volquez for four runs on five hits and two walks in five innings.
The Yankees backed Sabathia’s strong outing with four double plays and two of them came from McCann.
The seven-time All-Star catcher nailed Josh Harrison attempting to steal as Andrew McCutchen struck out in the first. Then in the third inning he did it again as Harrison struck out and he threw out Robert Andino.
The Yankees have now won six consecutive Grapefruit League contests and they outscored their opponents 36-7, with three of the victories coming via shutout.
The Yankees’ spring record is now 14-9-2. The Pirates fell to 11-9.
- Sabathia arrived in camp more than 30 pounds slimmer and determined to regain his ace status despite reduced velocity on his fastball. This spring he has sort of reinvented himself much like Andy Pettitte had to do when he lost velocity on his fastball. For those who were ready to shovel dirt on Sabathia’s career may be in for a huge surprise. Sabathia has always been more of a pitcher than a thrower so he can adapt at age 33.
- When McCann signed a free-agent contract the Yankees knew they were getting one of the best hitting catchers in baseball. Though he is solid defensively, the weakest part of his game has been his throwing. On Friday, he looked every bit as good as Russell Martin and Chris Stewart. McCann’s spring batting average is now .235, but that is misleading. Even McCann’s outs are hit hard and the ball jumps off his bat. The Yankees might have found the perfect successor to Jorge Posada.
- Very quietly Brian Roberts has been getting better this spring. After a slow start, he is hitting .290 with his 1-for-3 night on Friday. Roberts has to prove he can remain healthy but his last season like that was 2009 with the Baltimore Orioles. That year all Roberts did was score 110 runs, blast 16 home runs, drive in 79 runs, hit 56 doubles, steal 30 bases and bat .283. The Yankees don’t expect that kind of production but don’t be surprised if he gets near those numbers.
The Yankees have had their best week of the spring. The pitching has been magnificent. The starting lineup is beginning to hit and even the defense and the bullpen have been good. No need to dwell on any negatives here.
Outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury tested his sore right calf on Friday by running on grass and he possibly could return to action as early as Tuesday. That would give Ellsbury five games before the season begins on April 1 in Houston. Ellsbury was the only starter not in the lineup on Friday. . . . Jeter played seven innings on Friday despite the fact he fouled two balls off his surgically repaired left ankle. Jeter told reporters after the game that he was fine. He said the ankle was sore but he hopes to be ready to play on Sunday. Jeter was not scheduled to play on Saturday. . . . MRIs taken on backup infielder Brendan Ryan indicate a pinched nerve in his upper back and it is almost certain that he will begin the season on the disabled list. Ryan has not played in a game since March 4. He was scheduled to start on Thursday in Fort Myers against the Boston Red Sox. But during infield drills, Ryan’s upper back stiffened and he had to be scratched. To replace Ryan on the roster, manager Joe Girardi told reporters that he will pick two players from among Eduardo Nunez, Dean Anna and Yangervis Solarte. . . . Prior to the start of the game on Friday the Yankees infielder Greg Bird and right-handed pitcher Shane Greene were named winners of the 2013 Kevin Lawn Award as the Yankees’ minor-league “Player of the Year” and “Pitcher of the Year,” respectively. Bird, 21, batted .288 with 36 doubles, 20 home runs and 84 RBIs in 130 games with the Class-A Charleston RiverDogs. Greene, 25, played for both Class-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton, posting a 12-10 record with a 3.38 ERA over 27 appearances (26 starts). . . . Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino of the Miami Dolphins threw out the ceremonial first pitch for Friday’s game. Marino threw a strike to Posada, who is in camp as a special instructor.
The Yankees make the long trek to Fort Myers on Saturday to face the Minnesota Twins at Hammond Stadium.
The Yankees have selected Masahiro Tanaka (0-0, 1.93 ERA) to make his third start of the spring. Gardner, Francisco Cervelli and Kelly Johnson are expected to make the trip.
The Twins will counter with right-hander Kevin Correia (1-1, 6.00 ERA).
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network.
YANKEES 4, MARINERS 3
The epic showdown between former American League Cy Young Award winners Felix Hernandez and CC Sabathia on Tuesday may have ended in what could be scored a draw. But the New York Yankees ended up victorious by virtue of a technical knockout of Hernandez.
Trailing 3-1 when “King Felix” abdicated the mound, New York rallied for three runs in the seventh inning off the Mariners’ bullpen to defeat Seattle in front of a paid crowd of 41,267 at Yankee Stadium.
Reliever Shawn Kelley (2-0) bailed Sabathia out of a jam in the top of the seventh with runners on first and third and one out by striking out Kelly Shoppach and retiring former Yankees’ 2012 playoffs legend Raul Ibanez on a flyout to get credit for the victory.
Mariano Rivera pitched a perfect ninth inning to earn his 624th career save and his 16th save in as many chances this season.
Mariners left-hander Charlie Furbush (0-2) was saddled with the loss.
Lyle Overbay, who in some way “caused” Hernandez to leave the game, and Robinson Cano keyed the crucial rally in the seventh.
Chris Nelson led off the frame with a bloop single to center off right-hander Yoervis Medina and advanced to second on a wild pitch. After Austin Romine struck out swinging, Mariners manager Eric Wedge summoned Furbush.
Brett Gardner drew a walk and Cano followed by lacing a 3-2 slider off the base of the wall in right-center to score Nelson and Gardner to tie the game at 3-3.
Wedge elected to have Furbush walk Vernon Wells intentionally but Furbush also ended up walking Curtis Granderson – who was activated from the 15-day disabled list and was playing in his first game of the season – to load the bases.
That brought up Overbay, who had stroked a two-out double off Hernandez in the sixth to plate the Yankees’ first run of the night. After working the count to 3-2, Overbay laced a line drive to deep center that easily scored Cano with what proved to be the game-winning run.
Hernandez had been in control against the Yankees much of the night. However, a misplay by Hernandez that led to a collision with Overbay in the fourth inning doomed him.
With one out and Wells on first, Overbay hit a bouncer that just eluded a dive by first baseman Kendrys Morales but the ball was gloved by second baseman Robert Andino, who double-clutched and threw to Morales at first base. However, Hernandez also came over to cover first and was standing in the baseline behind Morales when Overbay collided with him, striking the back of Hernandez’s left knee.
Though first-base umpire Alan Porter originally called Overbay out, the umpiring crew discussed the play, ruled Hernandez was guilty of obstruction and awarded first base to Overbay.
Hernandez noticeably limped and stretched out his back throughout the rest of his outing until he was removed after six innings. The 27-year-old ace yielded one run on five hits and two walks while he punched out eight batters.
The Mariners, meanwhile were able to build a 3-0 lead on Sabathia.
They scored an unearned run in the third when, with one out ,Overbay committed a fielding error on a ball off the bat of Michael Saunders. One out later, Kyle Seager ripped a double to the wall in right-center to score Saunders.
They padded their lead in the sixth when Shoppach slapped a first-pitch single to the opposite field in right and Ibanez, who hit three dramatic late-inning home runs for the Yankees during the 2012 playoffs, showed the fans what they were missing when he roped a two-run home run into the first row of the bleachers in right-field.
Sabathia left in the seventh having given up three runs (two earned) on a season-high 10 hits and two walks but he also fanned season-high 10 in 6 1/3 innings.
With the come-from-behind victory the Yankees are now 8-2 in one-run games this season.
The Yankees have also won seven of their past eight games and they improved their season record to 25-14. They also extended their lead over the second-place Baltimore Orioles to two games in the American League East. The Mariners are now 18-21.
- Though Overbay committed his second error of the season and misplayed another ground ball by Ibanez that was ruled a single, his contributions at the plate have been huge all season. He was 1-for-2 with two RBIs and he is hitting .256 with six home runs and 24 RBIs. In fact, his RBI total is only one behind the team leader, Cano, who has 25.
- Cano came through in the clutch against a left-hander on a night the Yankees ended up 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position. Cano was 2-for-3 with a run scored and two RBIs. The two hits pushed his season average back over the .300 mark at .306. He came in hitting .299.
- Rivera remains perfect in saves this season and he needed only 11 pitches to close out the Mariners in the ninth. The Yankees bullpen trio of Kelley, David Robertson and Rivera held the M’s s off the board over the final 2 2/3 innings to extend the bullpen’s scoreless streak to 23 2/3 innings, which extends back to May 5.
- Sabathia did not pitch well in this game. The Mariners had at least one base-runner on in every inning against him except the first inning. In the fourth they loaded the bases with two out, but Sabathia escaped the jam by fanning Saunders swinging. Sabathia left in the seventh having thrown 112 pitches.
- Granderson had a rough return to lineup having to face Hernandez. It showed. Granderson grounded into a double play in the first, struck out swinging in the fourth and hit into a fielder’s choice in the sixth. But he did draw a key walk in the seventh against Furbush that set up Overbay’s game-winning sac fly.
- Romine also had a rough night. He was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and he is now hitting .071. Romine also misplayed a sacrifice bunt off the bat of Brendan Ryan in the eighth inning. Robertson earlier had walked pinch-hitter Dustin Ackley on four pitches to open the inning. Romine fielded the bunt and tried to throw out Ackley at second instead of taking the sure out at first. But Ackley beat the throw. Robertson escaped the jam by striking out Saunders and retiring pinch-hitter Justin Smoak on an unassisted double-play liner to shortstop Jayson Nix.
Granderson returned to the lineup since breaking his right forearm on his first at-bat of spring training on Feb. 24 and he batted fourth and played left-field. In order to get Granderson on the 25-man roster the Yankees optioned rookie left-hander Vidal Nuno to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre a day after he won his first major-league game in first major-league start by pitching five shutout innings against the Cleveland Indians. . . . It would not be the Yankees if on the same day they get one player back (Granderson) they possibly lost another for a period of time. Designated hitter Travis Hafner, 35, did not play in Tuesday’s game because of tendinitis in his chronic problem right shoulder. An MRI taken on the shoulder was negative but Hafner did receive a cortisone injection for the inflammation. He is listed as day-to-day.
The Yankees will continue their three-game home set against the Mariners on Wednesday.
Right-hander Phil Hughes (2-2, 4.43 ERA) will get the call for the Yankees. Hughes is coming off his second straight victory, but he gave up six runs on seven hits and two walks while he struck out three against the Kansas City Royals on Friday. Hughes is 4-2 with a 2.83 ERA against the M’s in his career.
Hughes will be opposed by right-hander Hasashi Iwakuma (4-1, 1.74 ERA). Iwakuma, 32, gave up two runs on four hits and punched out nine in seven innings in a victory over the Oakland Athletics on Friday. In his two starts against the Bronx Bombers last season he was 0-1 with a 3.60 ERA.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.
ALDS GAME 5: KEY MOMENT
Baseball pundits have made a cottage industry out of criticizing the New York Yankees for the advanced age of their team as if the second a player turns 30 he starts hitting like Jose Molina or pitching like Kevin Millwood.
But one of the reasons they have a number of players who 30 years old or older is the same reason why CC Sabathia beat the Baltimore Orioles on Friday to advance the Yankees to the American League Championship Series.
In Sabathia’s first five postseason starts up to when he was age 28, he was 2-3 with a 7.92 ERA. In the past four postseasons with the Yankees up to age 32, Sabathia is 7-1 with a 3.09 ERA.
Entering the eighth inning of Game 5 of the American League Division Series against the Orioles, Sabathia had given up just one hit and one walk while he had a seemingly comfortable 3-0 lead.
But things began to look as if they were unraveling when Matt Wieters led off the inning with a solid single to left and Sabathia walked rookie Manny Machado on just five pitches.
From this point on in the inning, the game was at a tipping point because if any of the Orioles hit a home run at this juncture then the game would be tied. If Sabathia might have been a younger and less experienced pitcher in postseason play he might have cracked.
After a strikeout of Mark Reynolds, Lew Ford followed with a single to left to score Wieters.
Now if any Orioles hitter were to hit a home run, the Orioles would take the lead. You could bet there were a few Tums moments in the Yankee dugout for manager Joe Girardi. He wanted his ace pitcher to get out of this but he also realized that the team’s success was more important.
Crazy plays happen in baseball all the time. They pop up at strange moments like this and they did when Robert Andino bounced a ball to the right of Sabathia.
Sabathia sprang off the mound to field it but he realized that he could not throw the ball to third because Eric Chavez was not on the base. Andino has some speed so first would have been out.
So Sabathia threw the ball to second but Ford slid into the bag before the ball arrived.
A lesser experienced postseason pitcher might have completely unraveled at this point. The bases were full and there was only one out.
On top of that, the Orioles best hitter in the series, Nate McLouth, was up with nowhere to put him.
“It’s what I’m here for,” Sabathia said, “It’s what I play the game for. I guess I should feel a little pressure or something like that, but I don’t.”
Girardi had right-hander David Robertson throwing in the bullpen but he stuck with his experienced ace left-hander against McLouth even though McLouth had narrowly missed hitting a home run in the sixth inning.
A crowd of 47.081 huddled in the October chill crossing their fingers and praying Sabathia could hold onto this most precious of leads. The Yankees’ hopes for a 28th world championship were riding on it.
Sabathia had learned by the time he came to the Yankees there was a big difference between throwing and pitching. Early in his career, Sabathia could throw hard and so that is all he did. Now Sabathia throws less hard but he is even better because he mixes in his curve, his slider and change-up more.
That is what Sabathia did with McLouth.
His first pitch was a called strike, a slider at 83 miles per hour. McLouth then weakly fouled off a 95-mph fastball. After Sabathia tried a 82-mph slider in the dirt for a ball, he came back with a higher 82-mph slider with which McLouth was unable to make contact.
Sabathia then had face J.J. Hardy, a power-laden shortstop who bats right-handed.
The big left-hander started Hardy off with a change-up off the outside corner for a ball. He then muscled up on a 94-mph fastball that challenged Hardy but Hardy took it for a strike.
Sabathia then put Hardy into a huge hole by getting him to offer and miss at another change-up.
Then catcher Russell Martin and Sabathia agreed to try Sabathia’s trademark slider that runs down the middle of the plate like a fastball but takes an abrupt turn right and dives to the inside corner on a right-handed hitter.
Hardy did make contact, but all he could do was roll it weakly back to Sabathia. The veteran lefty moved about three steps toward first and flipped the ball gently to Mark Teixeira to get out of a harrowing bases-loaded jam with the game on the line.
“He was just dominant — he shows why he’s making all that money,” Martin said. “He’s the man. He’s the horse of this team. It’s fun to be back there and try to direct him. He’s been awesome.”
Girardi’s faith in his ace proved to be well-founded. Sabathia was able to pitch his way out of trouble instead of throwing as hard as he could like he did when he could hit 98-mph on the radar gun.
Sabathia would go on to retire the Orioles in the ninth for his first postseason career complete game and the Yankees rode his back into the American League Championship Series.
Along with Sabathia, the Yankees have Andy Pettitte as a starter at age 40 and Hiroki Kuroda at age 37. But do not mistake the advanced age of their pitchers to be synonymous with old, washed up has-beens.
The reason why the Yankees win in the playoffs is because their pitchers and their players like Raul Ibanez at age 40 do not panic. They simply play the game and let it come to them instead of trying too hard.
Sabathia proved that in the eighth inning when he bent but did not break. He was tested but he remained calm. That is what experience gives you that raw talent could never surpass.
“He is our ace,” Girardi said. “That’s the bottom line. He has been there and done that.”
To ride a horse is to ride the sky.
– Author Unknown
GAME 5 – AMERICAN LEAGUE DIVISION SERIES
YANKEES 3, ORIOLES 1
The New York Yankees entered the postseason with one unquestioned ace. The Baltimore Orioles entered the postseason saying that their best pitcher was the pitcher scheduled to pitch that day. Unfortunately for the Orioles, not having that one horse you can ride throughout the postseason proved to be the difference in this series.
CC Sabathia pitched his first career postseason complete game and he struck out a personal postseason best nine batters on Friday to lead New York to an ALDS-clinching victory in Game 5 over upstart Baltimore in front of a raucous paid crowd of 47,081 at Yankee Stadium.
With the victory, the American League East-champion Yankees will advance to the American League Championship Series and host the American League Central-champion Detroit Tigers on Saturday.
Sabathia (2-0) gave up one run on four hits and two walks and threw 78 of his 121 pitches for strikes to run his ALDS record with the Yankees to 5-0 and he remains undefeated in his last eight postseason starts. In addition, he ran his career record against the Orioles, including his two postseason victories in the series, to 18-4.
The game unfolded as yet another pitchers’ duel between Sabathia and Orioles right-hander Jason Hammel (0-1), who also squared off in Game 1 of the series.
Both pitchers retired the first nine batters they faced until Nate McLouth slapped an opposite-field single to left off Sabathia to open the fourth inning.
Hammel, however, extended his perfect streak through four innings until Mark Teixeira opened the fifth with a single over the Orioles’ overshift into right-field. Manager Joe Girardi then decided to make the Orioles pay for not bothering to hold Teixeira on first base, as they have done through the entire series.
Teixeira stole second after swiping only two bases in the regular season and not stealing any in his career in postseason play. Teixeira then scored the first run of the game on a single up the middle by Game 3 hero Raul Ibanez.
Yankee fans got a bit of a pre-Halloween scare with two out in the sixth when McLouth hit a ball down the right-field line that was ruled a foul ball. The Orioles protested the call but the umpires upheld the original call of foul after a brief video review indicated the ball clearly traveled in front of the foul pole as it landed in the second deck. Sabathia then struck out McLouth to end the inning.
Hammel ran into more problems in the sixth when he issued a one-out walk to Derek Jeter and Jeter scored a line-drive double off the 385-foot marker in right-center by Ichiro Suzuki.
Two batters later, Hammel was removed from the game by Orioles manager Buck Showalter after yielding two runs on four hits and two walks while striking out six batters in 5 2/3 innings.
The Yankees padded their lead in the seventh inning when Curtis Granderson, who entered Game 5 of the series 1-for-16 with nine strikeouts, blasted a solo home run down the line in right into the second deck off Orioles left-hander Troy Patton.
Staked to a 3-0 lead, Sabathia began the eighth inning having pitched a dominant one-hitter and he issued a lone walk to Matt Wieters in the fifth inning.
But Yankee fans had to bite their nails when Sabathia gave up a leadoff single to Wieters and a walk to Manny Machado. After Sabathia fanned Mark Reynolds, Lew Ford slapped a single into left to score Wieters and break up Sabathia’s shutout.
Sabathia then induced Robert Andino to hit a weak comebacker to Sabathia’s right of the mound. However, Sabathia threw to second too late to get a sliding Ford in what was scored a single.
With the crowd nervous for the first time all afternoon, Sabathia wriggled out of the inning by striking out McLouth and getting J.J. Hardy on a slow hopper to Jeter at short.
With his ace having thrown 29 pitches in the eighth and 111 pitches overall, Girardi – who bravely elected to bench Alex Rodriguez for this game in favor of Eric Chavez – opted to have Sabathia finish out the contest.
Girardi was determined to ride his big horse to the end.
It took Sabathia only 11 pitches to get Adam Jones on a routine fly to center, Chris Davis on a swinging strikeout and Wieters on a comebacker to himself. Sabathia trotted three strides towards first base and easily flipped the ball to Teixeira to put the final nail in the coffin to the Orioles’ improbable playoff run.
Over the course of the season, the Yankees defeated the Orioles in 12 of 23 games and outscored them by four runs. In this series, they were 3-2 and outscored the Birds 16-10.
By virtue of having the best record in the American League, the Yankees will have home-field advantage in the best-of-seven ALCS. It will be the team’s 15th appearance in the championship series and their first since the 2010 season.
- Though the Yankees blew a chance to begin the ALCS with Sabathia on the mound when they lost Thursday, the ace left-hander bailed them out with a truly dominant outing. In his two games in the series, Sabathia was 2-0 with a 1.53 ERA. He gave up just three runs on 12 hits and two walks and struck out 16 in 17 2/3 innings. In what definitely was a pitchers’ series, Sabathia was clearly the Most Valuable Player.
- Ibanez came through with another crucial hit in the series to drive in the game’s first run. Though he only received nine at-bats in the series, Ibanez had four hits, including a game-tying and game-winning homer, and three RBIs. In benching, Rodriguez, who was 2-for-16 with nine strikeouts, Ibanez was placed in the No. 5 spot in the order and he came through again.
- Granderson probably deserved to be benched as much as A-Rod, but he was 2-for-3 with a home run in the game. After a regular season in which Granderson led the team in home runs and RBIs, he was conspicuous in his struggles through the first four games of the series. Now he has something positive going for him leading up the ALCS.
I could mention the awful hitting of Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher, Rodriguez and Granderson. But you can say the same about Jones, Wieters, Reynolds and Hardy of the Orioles. This was a pitchers’ series and both teams staffs held the other team down for long stretches. The difference was the Orioles did not have anyone who could match the brilliance of Sabathia.
It is not often that a three-time A.L. MVP and the highest-priced player on the payroll is benched for the deciding game of a postseason series, but Girardi informed Rodriguez via text message at about 1 p.m. EDT that he would not be starting Game 5. A-Rod replied, “I will be ready of you need me.” Rodriguez had been pinch-hit for in Game 3 and Game 4 of the series. He did not play in Game 5. Chavez played third batted and batted ninth. He was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. . . . Reliever Joba Chamberlain was unavailable for Friday’s game due to a swollen and bruised right elbow he sustained when he was struck by a piece of a shattered bat in the 12th inning of Thursday’s game. His status for the ALCS is unclear and he is listed as day-to-day.
After the Yankees were bounced out the 2011 ALDS in five games by the Tigers last season, the Yankees will be looking a measure of revenge in 2012. Game 1 of the best-of-seven series will be Saturday.
The Yankees will start left-hander Andy Pettitte (0-1, 3.86), who gave up three runs in seven innings of a tough-luck 3-2 loss to the Orioles in Game 2 on Monday. In 23 career starts against the Tigers, Pettitte is 10-9 with a 3.66 ERA. But he is 4-1 with a 1.85 ERA in his seven starts at Yankee Stadium this season.
The Tigers will counter with right-hander Doug Fister (0-0, 2.57 ERA). Fister gave up two runs on six hits and two walks while striking out seven in seven innings in Game 2 in a no-decision against the Oakland Athletics on Sunday. Fister is 1-2 with a 5.18 ERA lifetime against the Yankees. Although Fister won the deciding Game 5 of the ALDS against the Yankees last season, he was 1-1 with a 6.52 ERA against them in the series.
Game-time will be 8 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by TBS.
Well now C., C.C. Rider, well now see
See what you have done
Well now C., C.C. Rider, well now see
See what you have done
– Lyrics to “C.C. Rider” by Chuck Willis and Ma Rainey
GAME 1 – AMERICAN LEAGUE DIVISION SERIES
YANKEES 7, ORIOLES 2
Before this series began, the Orioles were counting on the fact that CC Sabathia came into Sunday’s game with an 0-2 record and a 6.38 ERA in the regular season against the Orioles after posting a spectacular 16-3 mark against them in his career.
They also believed their vaunted bullpen, led by closer Jim Johnson and his 51 saves, would hold the Yankees down long enough for the Orioles to sneak off with another one of their patented one-run victories at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Neither of those two things happened, however.
Sabathia pitched a brilliant 8 2/3 innings and the Yankees pounded Johnson in the ninth inning for five runs on five hits, including a tie-breaking leadoff home run from Russell Martin, as New York clipped the wings of Baltimore to take a pivotal 1-0 lead in the best-of-five series.
The game was tied 2-2 when Orioles manager Buck Showalter elected to bring Johnson into the game to attempt to hold the Yankees scoreless in the top of ninth. However, Johnson elevated a sinker on a 2-0 pitch to Martin and the veteran catcher blasted a long line drive into left-field that landed six rows up into the bleachers.
You could hear a collective gasp in the crowd because the deluxe sinker-baller Johnson had only given up only three home runs all season and none after June 5.
Raul Ibanez followed with a sharp ground single into right and Derek Jeter then executed a perfect hit-and-run single into the hole between first and second to advance Ibanez to third. Eduardo Nunez was inserted into the game to run for Ibanez.
Ichiro Suzuki then delivered a swinging-bunt single that scored Nunez and one out later Robinson Cano, who came into the game hitting .615 in his last nine games but was 0-for-4 on the night, slapped an opposite-field double to score Jeter and Suzuki. Cano advanced to third on a throwing error by J.J. Hardy.
Johnson (0-1) left in favor of right-hander Tommy Hunter and Nick Swisher was able to loft a fly ball into center to score Cano with fifth and final run charged to Johnson.
Meanwhile, Sabathia (1-0) pitched skillfully and came within one strike of pitching a complete game against a team that was playing in its first postseason since 1997 in front of a raucous towel-waving paid crowd of 47,841.
The Yankees actually broke open the scoring in the game before some of those fans had enough time to dry off their seats after a two hour and 21 minute rain delay had pushed back the first pitch to 8:42 p.m. EDT.
Jeter, who led the major leagues in hits this season with 216, stroked a hard-hit single up the middle off Orioles starter Jason Hammel. Suzuki, playing in his first postseason game since his rookie season of 2001 with the Seattle Mariners, then laced a double to the wall in left-center that scored Jeter standing up.
That run stood until the third inning when Chris Davis lined a single to center off Sabathia and Lew Ford followed with a single in the hole between shortstop and third into left-field. Robert Andino laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance them a base and Sabathia perhaps made his only real mistake of the whole evening.
Sabathia hung a first-pitch slider and Nate Mclouth slapped it into right-center to score Davis and Ford to give the Orioles a 2-1 lead.
The Yankees tied it up in the fourth by taking advantage of some wildness on the part of Hammel, who had not started a game since Sept. 11 because of a recurrence of a right knee injury that landed him on the disabled list early in the season.
Alex Rodriguez drew a walk to lead off the frame and one out later Swisher was walked on a 3-2 pitch. Mark Teixeira followed with a towering shot that hit the top of the scoreboard in right-field to score Rodriguez, however, Teixeira was thrown out trying to stretch the hit into a double on a bullet throw from Davis.
The game remained tied until the ninth but Sabathia earned the victory by turning away several serious Oriole scoring threats.
The Orioles mounted a rally in the fifth when Davis led off with a broken-bat single to right and one out later Andino rolled a ball just past a diving Jeter into left. However, Sabathia fanned McLouth looking and he retired Hardy on inning-ending groundout.
The Orioles put two men on base with two out in the sixth on a Mark Reynolds single and an error by Jeter on a short-hop grounder off the bat of Manny Machado. But Sabathia got Davis to fly out to center to end the threat.
In the eighth, Hardy led off with an opposite-field double to right. But Sabathia struck out Adam Jones swinging, got Matt Wieters out on a foul pop to Teixeira and Reynolds rolled out to Jeter to strand Hardy and set the stage for the Yankees five-run explosion in the ninth.
Sabathia surrendered two runs on eight hits and one walk while he fanned seven batters in a gutty 120-pitch outing. He left with two out in the ninth after Ford hit a two-out double on a 1-2 pitch.
David Robertson came on and struck out pinch-hitter Ryan Flaherty swinging to end the contest in front a quiet and dispirited Camden Yards crowd.
The Yankees had some chances to score more runs earlier in the game off Hammel. But base-running blunders and the fact the team was 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position until the ninth saved the Orioles.
After Suzuki doubled in Jeter in the first he was thrown by Wieters trying to steal third. Teixeira getting thrown out trying to stretch his RBI single in the fourth also short-circuited a potential big-inning.
Hammel gave up two runs on four hits and four walks while he struck out five in 5 2/3 innings.
Reliever Troy Patton escaped a two-on, two out jam in the sixth on a running catch of a ball off the bat of Curtis Granderson in foul territory in deep right by Davis.
The Yankees mounted a threat against Patton in the seventh when Martin and Ibanez drew back-to-back walks to start the inning.
After reliever Darren O’Day gave up a sacrifice bunt to Jeter that advanced Martin and Ibanez, Suzuki hit a hot smash to Andino and he threw Martin out at the plate. Rodriguez ended the threat by striking out swinging.
The ninth, however, would prove to be a much different story against Johnson.
The Yankees hold a vital 1-0 lead, having taken a game on the road in the best-of-five series. Since divisional play began, teams with a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five sets have won 48 of the previous 68 series.
- Sabathia shook off the long rain delay and retired the first six batters he faced. He threw 80 of his 120 pitches for strikes (67 percent). Sabathia also redeemed himself after pitching so poorly this season against the Orioles in his three starts and the 6.23 ERA he recorded in the best-of-five ALDS loss in 2011 to the Detroit Tigers.
- Martin has been delivering clutch home runs lately and this one was probably even more important than his three-run home run in the sixth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays on Sept. 28 that broke open a game the Yankees eventually won 11-4 to keep their lead in the American League East. Though Martin hit .211 this season, a hot final month allowed him to post a career high 21 home runs.
- Though Suzuki’s base-running foray in the first hurt, he delivered for the Yankees in the game by going 2-for-5 with a double, a run scored and two RBIs. He also combined with Jeter to reach base six times in 10 plate appearances.
- Rodriguez is virtually useless to the Yankees. He did draw a walk and score the tying run in the fourth. However, in his other four trips to the plate he struck out three times and rolled out weakly to short. After another disappointing season, Rodriguez is continuing his inept hitting in the playoffs.
- Granderson was not much better. He was 0-for-3 with an intentional walk. He hit into a fielder’s choice, fouled out to right and struck out. That is odd for Granderson because he entered play with a career average of .313 in division series play. In the seventh inning reliever Brian Matusz deliberately walked Teixeira on four pitches to face Granderson with two out and he struck him out on three pitches.
- The runners-in-scoring-position curse that has followed the Yankees much of the season almost sunk them against the Orioles. The Orioles were 3-for-8 but those five times they did not deliver against Sabathia cost them the game. The Yankees were very lucky to have won.
The Yankees posted a 25-man roster for the series that included some surprises. The Yankees found out middle infielder Jayson Nix was healthy enough to put on the roster. His left hip flexor injury he sustained in game on Sept. 27 was supposed to have sidelined him for 10 to 14 days but he was cleared to play on Saturday. In addition, Andruw Jones was left off the roster in favor of outfielder Brett Gardner and Nunez. Jones struggled badly in the second half and ended up hitting just .197. The Yankees also elected to go with a 11-man pitching staff that did not include 12-game winner Ivan Nova, veteran Freddy Garcia or reliever Cody Eppley. Late-season acquisition Derek Lowe was placed on the roster along with rookie right-hander David Phelps.
The Yankees will have a chance to deal a severe blow to the Orioles if they can win a second game at Camden Yards on Monday.
The Yankees have decided to go with 40-year-old left-hander Andy Pettitte (5-4, 2.87 ERA), who happens to be the all-time leader in postseason victories and boasts a 19-10 record with a 3.83 ERA in 42 starts. Pettitte was 2-1 with a 1.62 ERA in his three starts after being activated from the disabled list with a broken bone in his left ankle. He is 27-6 with a 3.52 ERA lifetime against the Orioles.
The Orioles will counter with a rookie right-hander from Taiwan in Wei-Yin Chen (12-11, 4.02 ERA). Chen wore down in September as evidenced by his 0-4 record and 5.05 ERA in his final six starts of the season. Chen started against the Yankees four times and was 1-2 with a 5.25 ERA.
Game-time will be 8 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by TBS.
YANKEES 8, ORIOLES 5
Little ball has its place but the longball has always been the Yankees’ bread and butter. That marvelous power was proudly on display on Friday at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Russell Martin, Alex Rodriguez and Steve Pearce each blasted Orioles left-hander Wei-Yin Chen for home runs as the Yankees put Baltimore in a 7-0 hole after 5 1/2 innings and New York got a solid six innings out of Phil Hughes to take back sole possession of first place in the American League East.
Martin began the power surge in the top of the fourth after Chen hit Nick Swisher with his first offering of the inning and Robinson Cano then drew a four-pitch walk. Rodriguez struck out but Chen started Martin off with two pitches low and out of the strike zone.
Forced to throw a strike, Martin blasted Chen’s “hit-me-hard” high change-up a dozen rows deep into the bleachers in left-field to give the Yankees a 3-0 lead.
One out later, Andruw Jones singled and Pearce turned around an inside first-pitch fastball into a towering drive to left-field that sailed over the outstretched glove of Nate McLouth at the wall and landed in the first row of the seats. McLouth tried to sell to the umpires that a fan interfered with his attempt to catch the ball but replays clearly indicated McLouth’s glove was over the wall and the fan in the first row did not reach into the field of play.
Nice try, Nate. But cheaters never prosper.
One inning later, the Yankees practically sent Chen crying back to his native Taiwan.
Derek Jeter led off the inning with an opposite field single to right, part of another huge three-hit night for the Yankee captain.
Two outs later, Rodriguez connected on a high fastball and drove it majestically over the bullpens in left-center for his 16th home run of the season and his 300th homer as a Yankee.
It also ended Chen’s evening. In Taiwan, they would say to Chen “zai ken,” which means goodbye.
Chen (12-9) entered the game 1-1 with a 3.26 ERA in his three starts against the Yankees this season. He left the game having been ripped to shreds for seven runs on six hits (three of them that covered quite a bit of real estate) and one walk while he struck four in 4 2/3 innings.
Meanwhile, Hughes (14-12) was shutting out the Birds over the first five innings until a Swisher error on a ball off the bat of J.J. Hardy opened the floodgates in the sixth. McLouth followed a with a double off the wall in right and Adam Jones then homered to plate Baltimore’s first three runs.
Hughes left after six innings having given up three runs (two earned) on six hits and no walks and he fanned five batters to become the first Yankee pitcher to win 14 games this season.
The Yankee bullpen made it interesting for the 40,681 fans who paid to watch this showdown between to the top top teams in the division.
Cody Eppley gave up a solo home run to Robert Andino in the seventh and closer Rafael Soriano was touched for a solo home run by Manny Machado with two out in the bottom of the ninth. But too much damage had been done to Chen and the Orioles by the Yankees’ bats in the middle innings.
Jeter drove in the game’s sole run that did not result from a home run. He scored Ichiro Suzuki with a two-out single off the glove of Andino at second base that padded the Yankee lead to 8-4.
With the victory, the Yankees improved their season record to 78-60. The Orioles slipped to 77-61, one game back in second place. The Tampa Bay Rays are two games back in third.
- So much for left-handers having a huge edge on Yankees. All three homers off Chen were from right-handed hitters. With the three bombs he gave up on Friday, Chen has now given up 25 home runs this season. Six of them have come in his four starts against the Yankees. YES Network broadcaster Michael Kay got to really perfect his signature “See-ya” call in this one.
- Hughes came through with a solid six-inning effort and gave the Yankee offense plenty of time to tee off on Chen. Hughes bounced back nicely off his loss to the Orioles in his last start. Before that losing outing, Hughes had pitched at least seven innings in his previous four starts.
- After stinking up the Bronx most of the season, Martin is beginning to show signs of getting hot with the bat. In his last four games, Martin is 6-for-14 (.429) with two homers and seven RBIs. Martin has raised his season average to .204 with 16 home runs and 43 RBIs. The Yankees do need his bat down the stretch.
- The Swisher error at first base was his first error at the position this season. But it proved to be a costly one. The one saving grace was the Yankees did have a 7-0 lead at the time. It ruined what had been a very good outing from Hughes up to that point.
- Eppley and Soriano were touched for late home runs, which proved costly to David Robertson and the Yankees on Thursday. The Yankees’ bullpen has been very good about keeping the ball in the ballpark most of the season. It would be a shame if this trend continued during the stretch drive.
- Curtis Granderson has become virtually useless at the plate and it is beginning to look like he is going to need some time on the bench. He was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts on Friday and he now has just two hits in his last 17 at-bats (.118) and has struck out nine times. Pitchers lately could practically roll the ball to the plate and Granderson would swing and miss.
The Yankees elected to play it safe on Friday and did not start Mark Teixeira at first base. Teixeira, who has missed 11 games with a strained left calf, took batting practice and fielded ground balls, but trainer Steve Donohue recommended Teixeira should rest one more day. He is likely to return to action on Saturday. . . . The Yankees may make a change in their weekend rotation plans because right-hander Ivan Nova is ready to return from the disabled list after suffering inflammation in his right rotator cuff. If Nova does make the start it will be in place of right-hander Freddy Garcia, who is Sunday’s scheduled starter.
The Yankees will resume their pivotal four-game series with the Orioles on Saturday.
Ace left-hander CC Sabathia (13-4, 3.42 ERA) will get the start for the Yankees. Sabathia is coming off a no-decision in his last start against the Rays. But the Orioles are a team that Sabathia has owned throughout his career, He is 16-3 with a 2.97 ERA against them.
The Orioles will counter with journeyman left-hander Joe Saunders (1-1, 4.63), who will be making only his third start for the O’s. He is coming off a game in which he threw six perfect innings and a shutout over 6 1/3 innings. Saunders is 2-1 with a 6.28 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 8, ORIOLES 5
For the past four seasons Orioles fans having been booing Maryland native Mark Teixeira whenever he comes to the plate at Camden Yards in some misguided thought that Teixeira owed the city of Baltimore enough that he should have signed a free-agent contract with their team for less money.
On Monday night, Teixeira treated those fans to what they have been missing the last four years by launching a majestic two-run blast in the seventh inning to break up a 5-5 tie to lead New York to a thrilling come-from-behind victory over Baltimore.
Former Yankee reliever Luis Ayala (1-1) gave up a leadoff single to Alex Rodriguez, his third single of the game. One out later, Teixeira ripped into a 1-2 fastball on the outside corner and pulled into the right-field bleachers for his fifth home run of the season.
Reliever David Phelps (1-1) picked up his first major-league victory in relief with a scoreless inning of work. Rafael Soriano pitched a scoreless ninth to earn his second save of the season.
The game was a back-and-forth affair because neither starting pitcher was able to pitch effectively.
The Orioles jumped out to a 2-0 lead on Ivan Nova in the first inning on an RBI single by J.J. Hardy and an RBI double by Adam Jones.
But the Yankees struck back against Jason Hammel in the fourth inning on a two-run double off the bat of Nick Swisher. They added another run in the fifth on a two-out solo home run by Curtis Granderson, his 12th of the season which was hit so hard it landed over the right-field stands and out onto Eutaw Street.
Unfortunately for the Yankees, Nova was unable to hold the lead in the fifth. Nova walked Robert Andino, rookie Xavier Avery then tripled to right-field to score Andino. Then Hardy followed with a his ninth home run of the season to hand the Orioles a 5-3 lead.
But Hammel was unable to hold the lead either.
The Yankees loaded the bases on Hammel in the sixth on a Robinson Cano double and successive walks to Teixeira and Swisher, which ended Hammel’s night. Ayala induced a ground ball off the bat of Raul Ibanez but it was misplayed into an error by Chris Davis and two runs scored.
Hammel was charged with five runs (four earned) on seven hits and three walks and he struck out three in five-plus innings. Hammel had previously not given up more than two runs in any of his previous six starts.
Nova left the game with one out in the sixth inning when he came up limping on his right foot after fielding a high bouncing ball off the bat of Wilson Betemit. With two out in the third inning, Nova was struck on the right foot on a ball hit by Nick Markakis but he was able to remain in the game.
With the victory, the Yankees improved their season record against the Orioles to 5-2 and the season record is now at 20-15. The Orioles dropped to 22-14.
- Once again, the bullpen showed its superiority over the Orioles. In the final 3 2/3 innings Clay Rapada, Phelps, Boone Logan, Cory Wade and Soriano combined to shut out the Orioles the rest of the way on three hits and one walk and they struck out six batters. In contrast, the Orioles’ ineffective bullpen gave up three runs on four hits, three walks, two hit batters and struck out two in four innings. Ouch!
- After his average dropped to .212 last Thursday when he was 0-for-3 against the Rays, Teixeira has a modest four-game hitting streak going with his 2-for-4 night against the Orioles. In that span, Teixeira is 6-for-16 (.375) with a six runs scored and two RBIs. He has raised his average to .231.
- Granderson’s 12th home run ties him with Adam Dunn of the White Sox for second place in the American League in home runs. Josh Hamilton of Texas leads with 18. Granderson also contributed a sensational running catch to the deepest part of the ballpark on a shot off the bat of Hardy in the seventh inning.
- Nova did not pitch effectively because he struggled with his command. He sureendered five runs on seven hits and three walks and struck out four in his 5 1/3 innings of work. Despite the fact he is 4-1, his ERA is now 5.44 and he will need to pitch much better going forward.
- Weird stat of the game: Despite the fact the Yankees scored eight runs and collected 11 hits they were a miserable 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position.
- Derek Jeter entered Sunday’s game with the Mariners having not hit into a double play this season. But he hit into two of them on Sunday and he hit into two more on Monday. So he now has hit into four double plays in his last eight at-bats. He also struck out with the bases loaded in the sixth inning and he is 0-for-5 this season with the bases loaded.
This game could be very costly for the Yankees. Nova left the game with a bruise and a sprain in his right ankle. X-rays of his right ankle taken after the game were negative but it is unclear if Nova will be able to make his next scheduled start. In addition, Rapada had to be helped in to the clubhouse because of a severe viral infection and Ibanez left the game in the ninth inning after being struck on the right elbow on a pitch from reliever Dana Eveland. Ibanez told reporters he thought he would able to play on Tuesday. . . . Manager Joe Girardi told reporters on Monday that reliever David Robertson has been unable to pitch for the past four days due to a soreness in his left ribcage. Robertson felt the discomfort after a he threw two-thirds of an inning in a non-save situation against the Rays on Thursday. He is scheduled for an MRI on Tuesday.
The Yankees will have a chance to sweep the Orioles in this two-game road series on Tuesday.
The Yankees will have a good shot with CC Sabathia (5-0, 3.51 ERA) starting. Sabathia has won his last five starts and he is coming off his best start of the season. He threw eight innings of shutout baseball and struck out a season-high 10 in beating the Rays on Thursday. Sabathia also owns a 16-2 record and a 2.86 ERA in his career against the Orioles.
His opponent will be left-hander Wei-Yin Chen (3-0, 2.43 ERA). Chen held the Rangers to two runs in 7 2/3 innings in his last start. He has no record and 3.18 ERA after just one start against the Yankees this season.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by MY9.